Cold Kill (Steven Hunter #2), by James Becker (as Tom Kasey)

Eight stars

Long a fan of James Becker (which appears not to be the author’s actual name), I chose to read one of his earlier novels. Written under another pseudonym—Tom Kasey—the excitement did not wane whatsoever, allowing me to enjoy the reading experience. Steven Hunter is back, still seconded to the FBI but separated from the woman about whom he cares so much. Now in New Mexico, Hunter is sent out to investigate an odd slaying of a cow in a farmer’s pasture. However, when a human body turns up, all his focus shifts in that direction. The body of a young woman would be enough to raise a red flag, but when it appears her internal organs have been removed, things take a definite twist towards the bizarre. A few other cases that seem similar in nature lead Hunter and the local sheriff to feel that not only is there a serial killer on the loose, but that this person is harvesting organs. While many of their leads are coming up dry, Hunter refuses to toss in the towel. He looks towards those who might work in the medical field, especially with some of the drugs found in the system of the victims. When someone close to Hunter disappears, the case goes from professional to personal in short order, demanding results before scalpel meets skin yet again. Kasey offers up an interesting story that keeps the reader guessing in this criminal game of cat and mouse. Those who love a good procedural will surely want to grab this quick read, as well as readers who have enjoyed the work of James Becker (or his other pseudonyms) for many years.

The series is only two books to date, but the level of intrigue is surely high, taking the reader on an adventure that has little time to lose momentum. Much more compact than the debut, Kasey uses the novel to help add additional grit to his characters and create a mystery that will capture the attention of a wider audience. Steven Hunter continues to bring his British mannerisms to the story, as well as a gritty approach to crime solving. Less the police officer than a man who will do whatever it takes to solve a crime. Strong and determined, Hunter also has a compassionate side, wanting the truth for the victims’ families and his own peace of mind. His backstory is still somewhat shelved, but Hunter does offer a determination that appears to propel him through the story, leaving no lead blowing in the wind. Other characters help to develop this fast-paced novel, whose plot remains strong and quite focussed, though there is always room for a few tangents, when time permits. The reader will surely enjoy the banter throughout, though humour takes a backseat when dead bodies continue to appear. The premise of the book is great, highly tuned to a single storyline, for the most part. Kasey offers up a wonderful narrative that pushes forward and keeps the reader wanting to know more. His use of short and longer chapters pulls the reader into the middle of the story and leaves them hanging at various points, begging for ‘just a little more’, which is usually possible. I have enjoyed both novels in the series and am left to wonder, were these simply re-publications, or is there more to come from this author whose sub-genre branch-offs are as plentiful as the names under which he writes.

Kudos, Mr. Kasey, for another great novel. Whatever you call yourself, I am happy to keep reading what you offer up.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: